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Enhanced connectivity

“An advanced suite of WiFi solutions from Aruba has set up the Steigenberger hotel in Business Bay to offer world class seamless network connectivity to its guests”

The Steigenberger hotel in Business Bay is a state-of- the- art 5 star hotel operated by Steigenberger Hotels & Resorts, a global chain that has its HQ in Germany and is part of Deutsche Hospitality. The hotel is operated on behalf of Twenty14 Holdings, the hospitality investment arm of the Abu Dhabi based LuLu Group International which owns several prestigious properties globally.

Centrally located in the heart of Dubai’s busy Business Bay district, the hotel boasts of round the clock peak occupancy by guests, constituting of both executives on business visits and families on leisure visits. The hotel benchmarks itself against the top tier hotels in the city and prides itself on providing the best facilities to guests.

The hotel commenced operations in the second half of 2015 and in the months preceding the inauguration, the IT team was tasked with setting up IT infrastructure. The IT Director of the hotel, Dinto Joseph with his team did due diligence on the requirements and looked for various solutions from different vendors who had shown interest in providing solutions.

The hotel finally built up its network and IT infrastructure with core and edge switches from HPE, telephony solutions form Avaya, PCs and servers from Dell, firewalls from Fortinet and VPN from Cisco.

A case for high speed WiFi

The hotel had identified the need for high speed WiFi connectivity as one of the pre-requisites identified in offering guests the best of breed facilities.
Dinto says, “As part of the highly competitive hotel industry, we wanted to ensure our hotel provided the best high speed internet experience to our customers. we had already invested in getting a high speed internet connection from the telecom provider and therefore wanted to ensure we invested in the best of breed solutions to extend that connectivity to our customers.”

The company looked around at options and finally opted for solutions from Aruba based on key considerations.

Dinto elaborates, “The network infrastructure is built on HPE Aruba combination. core and edge switches from HPE (HP Enterprise) and Aruba controller based wireless solutions. We did look at Ruckus wireless apart from Aruba and also considered Cisco and HPE for the networking infrastructure. We chose to go with the HPE Aruba combination since Aruba had become part of the HPE family and was easier to deal with one vendor and the support was excellent.”

The first phase of the wireless solutions were almost in tandem with setting up of the wired infrastructure. One of the key considerations was to avoid excessive cabling and rely on a robust WiFi to get effective connectivity.

Dinto says, “We deployed both network and wireless solutions during the pre-opening time about two and half years ago. We were looking for suitable WiFi AP to carry the IPTV signals across guest rooms.”

He adds, “In some of the rooms we were unable to get the IPTV connectivity from existing structured cabling, so we wanted to use wifi access points in individual rooms. The Aruba access point models we chose were capable of running IPTV signals through their additional Ethernet ports. So we saved on the need for pulling additional wired cabling to each and every other room in the hotel which was one of our requirements when we were looking around for solutions.”

The entire wireless deployment was achieved in two phases. The first phase included WiFi for the guys rooms and the conference rooms. In the second phase about a year later, the hotel upgraded some of the access points to higher throughput models and also included deployments across more of the surrounding public areas.

Dinto says, “While in the first phase, we deployed WiiFi for the guest rooms and the conference rooms, in second phase, we upgraded the access points in the conference rooms and also deployed access points for all the meeting rooms as we realized the demand from meeting rooms was more than from the public areas.”

The hotel went in for a controller based solution with the Aruba Wireless Mobility Controller – 7210. Optimized for 802.11ac, the 7200 series features a central processor with eight CPU cores to support over 32,000 devices and stateful firewall policy enforcement at 40 Gbps.

New levels of visibility offered by AppRFTM technology allow IT to see applications by user, prioritize them, and control access based on policies. It also manages authentication, encryption, VPNs, IPv4/IPv6 services, the Policy Enforcement Firewall, Adaptive Radio Management, and RFProtect spectrum analysis and wireless intrusion protection.

Further with the Aruba WiFi mobility controller 7210, there has been no need to manually configure wireless access points as they automatically register and configure when placed in defined locations. The controller also gives the visibility to monitor the network performance and take corrective measures as necessary.
Dinto says, “We can define locations and assign names and we also have the monitoring element. We can see glitches if any and receive failure alerts of access points or possible interference with another AP. It also helps in detection of rogue devices. So we are in a position to fix the problems protectively and this keeps up our efficiency.”

The Setup

The deployment was set out in two zones, one for the rooms and one for the public areas. “We wanted to have two wifi zones. For the guest rooms, we wanted to ensure signal strength within - 60 dBm (decibel milliwatts). Aruba also had access points catering to provide coverage for individual rooms only of specific dimensions. We opted for the 103H model in the rooms.
This is a very sleek access point that has been deployed in our guest rooms, hidden behind the TV.”
AP-103H hospitality access point (AP) maximizes mobile device performance in moderately dense. Wi-Fi environments while minimizing interference from cellular networks. The AP- 103H installs in minutes and easily mounts to an electrical or data wall box.

For the public zones, the hotel preferred to go with a higher throughput model and an even higher speed one for the Banquet rooms.

Dinto says, “In the public areas, we opted for the higher throughput, ceiling mounted 205 which gave connectivity in the lobby and the restaurants. For the conference and ball rooms, we have considered the model 305 which can provide coverage for up to 40 clients and which has up to three antennas. We deployed 3 access point in each ball room to handle a large number of clients.”

AP 205 are from the 200 series 802.11ac wireless APs that maximize mobile device performance in medium-density enterprise Wi-Fi environments, deliver wireless data rates of up to 867 Mbps to 5-GHz devices with 802.11ac technology leveraging two spatial MIMO streams while simultaneously supporting 2.4-GHz 802.11n clients with data rates of up to 300 Mbps.
The entry-level Aruba 300 Series Access Points (APs) deliver high performance user experience for medium density environments and enable an all wireless digital work environment in a cost effective manner with a maximum concurrent data rate of 1,300 Mbps in the 5GHz band and 400 Mbps in the 2.4GHz band.
For the immediate outdoor surroundings, the hotel deployed the Access Point- 275. Part of the 270-series outdoor APs from Aruba, these deliver fast and reliable 802.11ac Wi-Fi performance under any weather conditions and also enables 802.11n mobile devices to operate up to three-times faster at the same distance from the AP. Purpose-built for the harshest outdoor environments, 270-series APs can withstand extreme temperatures, persistent moisture and precipitation, and are fully sealed to keep out airborne contaminants.

Enhanced support

The second phase achieved the twin objectives of eliminating dead spots in uncovered areas and upgrading to higher models based on needs. The hotel was offered good pricing support and support by the vendor through its partner Maxtouch Computers LLC. “In the second phase, there were some upgrades and we also eliminated dead spots such as in lift landing areas, surrounding outdoor areas of the hotel such as the such as poolside, restaurant etc. We were provided competitive pricing for the additional Access Points and we got the older ones re-fixed in areas where there were no signals for staff access.” Maxtouch Computers LLC is a leading SMB Solutions Provider in the UAE and was responsible for the implementation of the Aruba based WiFi network. The hotel had chosen the solution provider from among others owing to the high caliber expertise its engineers possessed.

“There were other contenders in terms of solution providers offering Aruba solutions, but we chose Maxtouch after interviews as we found their engineers to be quite senior and knowledgeable about the solutions, an assurance that would be in good hands.”

For approvals, while Dinto oversaw form the hotel side, the project need the go ahead from the German HQ of the hotel.
“We had to send them the final POQ with vendor recommendations and site survey analysis for their approval. As HPE Aruba was on their approved list of suppliers already, this was achieved quite easily and they approved the solution from Germany.”

The Outcome
The hotel is quite satisfied with the deployment in terms meeting expectations and while early reviews had helped identify dead spots and take corrective measure, subsequent periodic reviews have suggested that there are no complaints across all areas, in rooms and the public spots. Moreover, it has enhanced the operations of the hotel staff.

He says, “The solution has been quite satisfying and a big relief from the IT operations point of view as we don't get any complaints about dead spots from guests staying in the hotel rooms. Our surveys of the connectivity has been satisfactory and it is through survey initially that we identified that there were some dead spots in public areas when we were perhaps too focused on fixing the wifi in the guest rooms and which is when we decided to upgrade the access points in the public areas.”Adding further value to the high speed WiFi connectivity, the hotel also has also deployed a
housekeeping solution from Optii solutions for the staff that runs on the wifi and is part its facility management solutions, critical to its operations and optimized use of staff man-hours. The High speed WiFi ensures there is always real time exchange of information available for the housekeeping staff to ensure guest rooms are always ready without delays.

Dinto says, “The housekeeping staff start their work day with their smart phone to access the housekeeping solution and when they are done cleaning up a room, they will click finish. This is interfaced with our property management system and monitored by a coordinator at the central control room who is responsible for letting the housekeeping staff know which room is to be prioritized for cleaning. So there is optimization and helps real time communication, eliminating need for phone calls.”